Skagit Publishing/Pioneer News co-owner Susan Scripps Wood dies

Susan Scripps Wood, an owner and former board chairwoman of Skagit Publishing parent company Pioneer News Group, died Monday in her Mount Vernon home of more than 50 years. She was 80.

Wood was a Seattle native and great-granddaughter of E.W. Scripps, who built a large newspaper chain that included the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. and Scripps Howard News Service, a portion of which later became the Scripps League of Newspapers.

Scripps League grew to a group of 55 newspapers, the largest newspaper chain at the time, before it was divided into several companies. One of them, founded by Susan’s father James G. Scripps, was recently renamed Pioneer News Group.

Susan Wood had recently celebrated a 60th wedding anniversary with her husband, Leighton P. Wood, whose own newspaper career took him first through Idaho, Oregon, Arizona and Lake Tahoe. The couple arrived in Mount Vernon in 1964 when Scripps League hired Leighton as publisher of the Skagit Valley Herald, continuing the family’s long newspaper legacy.

As the family business grew, Susan Wood became active in community service and philanthropy.

She served on the Skagit Valley College Foundation’s board of governors from 1980 to 1990 and was a past president of the American Cancer Society’s volunteer program.

Former Mount Vernon Mayor Skye Richendrfer praised her philanthropic work and commitment to the arts, which included support of McIntyre Hall and the Celtic Arts Foundation.

“I think our community lost a real treasure,” he said Tuesday. “Susan was such a force, both inside the community and out.”

Retired Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer said his family has known the Woods for the better part of half a century, and he’s had the greatest of respect and admiration for Susan Wood.

“She was just a wonderful, positive, bright, fun lady,” he said.

Her positive spirit was something noted by not only friends and family but also by the people who worked for her.

Her sincerity in dealing with people endeared her to everyone, said Pioneer News Group CEO Mike Gugliotto.

She served as board chairwoman for Pioneer for 20 years.

“When she stood up and said ‘I just want to thank you for what you’ve done for this company,’ it was sincerely heartfelt and you knew it,” Gugliotto said. “You just didn’t want to let this person down. You wanted to exceed her expectations.”

Gugliotto noted that Susan Wood was passionate about her family’s newspaper legacy and believed in the importance of quality journalism and its role in the community.

The company is now owned by the Woods, their four children and eight next-generation family members.

The Woods’ son, Stedem Wood, was previously publisher of the Skagit Valley Herald and remains a Pioneer board member, as are daughters Laura Wood and Heather Berkley. Their oldest daughter, Marnie Roozen, is currently board chairwoman for Pioneer News Group.

“She gave all of us a deep love of the business,” Roozen said of her mother. “It was something we talked about at the dinner table at night. She was so proud of that history.”

Roozen recalled that her mother also didn’t hesitate to pitch in with the family business. Once, for instance, someone called the Wood household to report their paper had not been delivered.

“Mom pulled out the one copy of the paper we had and ironed it so Dad could take it out to deliver,” Roozen said.

A celebration of life will be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Sunset Club, 1021 University Street in Seattle. Donations may be sent to the Skagit Community Foundation/Wood Family Trust at skagitcf.org or 1204 Cleveland Ave., Mount Vernon, WA 98273.

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